Tips for LGBTQ Travel in Central America

World rainbow gathering at remote area in Southern Costa Rica, South America
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Gay and lesbian travel in Central America is very much still in development. Some Central America destinations, like Quepos in Costa Rica, are quite gay-friendly. Unfortunately, many other places are homophobic – or worse. Note: Unless you're in an openly gay-friendly bar, club or hotel, same-sex public displays of affection are always discouraged in Central America. (For now, at least.)

For a comprehensive list of gay and lesbian-friendly hotels, check out Purple Roofs and World Rainbow Hotels.

Gay and Lesbian Travel in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is probably the most gay-friendly of Central America countries, particularly in the capital city of San Jose. There is a number of welcoming gay bars and discos, such as La Avispa ("The Wasp"), open since the late 1970s. Colours Oasis Resort is a gay, lesbian and straight-friendly luxury boutique hotel in San Jose. Manuel Antonio (and the neighboring village of Quepos) is another gay-friendly Costa Rica travel destination; several bars and hotels aren't just inclusive, but gay-owned. One is Café Agua Azul, a bar/restaurant with expansive views of the Pacific Ocean.

Belize

Belize isn't the friendliest destination for gay travelers. Like most of Central America, Belize is largely Catholic; technically, sodomy is still illegal, though rarely prosecuted. As a result, same-sex PDAs are discouraged, and a decent level of discretion is advised. The most accommodating destination for gay and lesbian travelers is San Pedro Town on the island of Ambergris Caye, which is also the country's most popular tourist destination.

However, there aren't any openly gay bars in the village.

Guatemala

Guatemala is one of the more homophobic countries in Central America, due to primarily conservative Catholic population and a strong machismo culture. Gay Guatemala is a guide to the country's limited gay scene, which is mostly limited to Guatemala City's Zona 1.

Touristy cities like Antigua and Quetzaltenango are more tolerant than the rest of the country, though PDAs are strongly discouraged.

Panama

Panama is moderately gay-friendly, especially in Panama City. While public displays of affection (PDAs) are frowned upon (particularly by the Catholic Church), there are several openly gay-friendly bars and discos in the capital. The best resource for up-to-date info on current Panama City gay bars is Farra Urbana. BLG is probably the largest accommodating dance club. Los Cuatro Tulipanes is a gay-friendly hotel in the city's lively and historic Casco Viejo district.

Nicaragua

Nicaragua's gay-friendliness has swung back and forth over the years, due to the country's internal political and religious struggles. Right now, the country is moderately welcoming – gay sex is no longer a crime in Nicaragua. In fact, the capital city of Managua has held a gay pride parade every year since 1991. Managua's primary gay bars are Tabu and Lollipop. The colonial city of Granada also boasts a number of gay-friendly destinations, like dance club Mi Terra and Imagine. Gay communities in both cities are hospitable and approachable.

Honduras

Homosexuality is legal in Honduras, but it's still primarily underground – with good reason.

There were allegedly 58 murders of gays and lesbians in Honduras in 2011. Gay marriage and adoption were made illegal in 2005 via constitutional amendment. Bamboo is the most gay-friendly bar in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. The internet lists Olimpus in San Pedro Sula as the only gay-friendly bar. The well-traveled Bay Islands of Utila and Roatan are decently gay-friendly, although there aren't any openly gay bars. Discretion is advised.

EL Salvador

While discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited in El Salvador, homophobia is widespread and violence toward gays and lesbians isn't uncommon. Due to the country's deeply Catholic population, the gay nightlife scene in El Salvador is very much underground. Lonely Planet lists two gay discos in San Salvador: Yascuas and Mileniun, located in the same building.